For us Bohras, food is our religion
INTRODUCTION TO BOHRA MUSLIM CUISINE
Although food is integral to human survival, for Bohras it boils down to much more. After faith and culture, it is food that binds us together, brings us together. In fact faith would have little currency without that inevitable jaman. Food, or at least the expectation of it, helps one endure those majalises. And for the orthodox brethren, for whom no gathering, religious or otherwise, can end without the ritual of matam, that expectation cannot be sweeter.
Take food out of the equation and see what happens. One can’t speak for other communities, but one has a gut feeling that Bohras will lose their appetite for all things religious. Technically, food is not part of their faith but practically, it well might be. This is not to say that Bohras cannot stomach religion without food, but for them the two go together, like milk and sugar.
Perhaps this complementarity of religion and food, followed a certain logic. Wiley priests must have known that without appealing to a man’s stomach they cannot access his mind. Of course, women had figured that out eons before, but their destination was the heart. In either case though, the direct assault was on man’s stomach.
The Bohras have their umbilical cord tethered to jamat and jaman and food as always remained their centre of gravity. Ask any Bohra which food defines their culture and the answer invariably will be: daal chawal palida. This simple rice and curry dish is a staple of every Bohra home, and although it carries the culinary burden of a whole community it remains a humble and affordable food. But to judge Bohra cuisine by their signature dish would be grossly misleading. The Bohra mind maybe tamed but their palate remains wild and free.
You have to experience the culinary delights of big cities like Mumbai. There the cooks, the bhatiyaraas, stirred magic into every exotic dish they made. With the passage of time as Bohras came into new money – mainly from Gulf countries, professions and opening up of the Indian economy – their prosperity came to be reflected in food. Community meals became more numerous and the menu more colorful. Today, chili chicken, anjeer halwa, ice-cream and such are common. The list is endless, with the second and third generation Bohra caterers now innovating and expanding their recipe lists to incorporate cuisines from across the world.
If there’s a community in Mumbai which truly lives by the maxim of ‘Live to eat’ rather than ‘Eat to live’, it is the Dawoodi Bohras. The Bohras believe that any occasion is an occasion to break bread together and this in essence is both their joie de vivre and the raison d’ etre of their existence.
While you are in Lalitpur or Kathmandu, Nepal you can enjoy authentic Mumbai Bohra Muslim cuisine which is 100% Halal at Tasneem’s King Kitchen, Jhamsikhel Road, next to Pulchowk Damkal, Lalitpur, Nepal.For table reservations and takeaway call 9801121212.
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